2:00PM Water Cooler 3/13/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers, I confess — and this may show something about my temperament — that I sprang back instead of springing forward. After having a conversation about the time change! I’ll add more politics links in a bit. UPDATE 2:47 UPDATEs complete.


“New Trump administration trade initiatives are picking up steam, but so is opposition in Washington and in parts of the U.S. that are critical to the White House agenda…. Republican lawmakers in states that depend on exports are raising concerns over efforts they fear could undermine shipments of agriculture goods and aerospace parts” [Wall Street Journal].


Lambert here: Readers, I can’t recall a time when we’ve had multiple struggles for power, each enormously consequential in themselves, where policy is so enmeshed with complex technical material. We have the struggle to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare, which has suddenly turned into an effort to gut Medicaid; the struggle over Russsia policy, which is starting to turn on questions of surveillance law, and takes place against the background of an attempted soft coup by the intelligence community, the Democrat Establishment, and their assets in the press; and the struggle over the nature and the implications of Clinton’s 2016 debacle. And we don’t even have a financial crisis, or an EU crisis! It’s a wonderful time to be a blogger but there are a lot of plates to keep spinnning at once:

I’m not suffering from historical amnesia, am I?


It’s horrible that I have to introduce this category, but it is what it is. We are where we are.

UPDATE “We picked the wrong billionaire: The case for Mark Zuckerberg 2020” [Salon]. “When I think about the politicians likely to get in on the 2020 race, I don’t know that I see anyone other than Zuck who could reset the Obama Era order — or actually innovate beyond it by bridging the gap between the lightning pace of technological change and bureaucracy. It is essential to do the work of ending oppression, but it might be easier to dismantle oppressive institutions under a millennial who has already successfully dismantled institutions.” These people are the stupidest people on the face of the earth.

New Cold War

UPDATE “It would have been impossible to imagine a year ago that the Republican Party’s leaders would be effectively serving as enablers of Russian interference in this country’s political system. Yet, astonishingly, that is the role the Republican Party is playing” [Robert Kagan, Brookings Institute]. You know, the liberal Brookings Institute. From the heart of The Blob, from the same Kagan clan of flexians that brought you the war with Iraq!

Health Care

“Trump holds ‘listening session’ for ‘victims’ of ObamaCare” [The Week]. There’s no reason to put “victims” in scare quotes; the NC comments section provides plenty of examples. This is also a smart political move by Trump (even apart from stealing the “listening” concept from Clinton). Ask yourself: Did the Democrat ever do this? No, of course not. ObamaCare is already great, because Obama. Except not.

“How the GOP health-care plan could gut the Medicaid expansion” [Harvard School of Public Health]. “[A]fter 2019, anyone on Medicaid who has more than a one-month gap in their health coverage will lose eligibility for the currently generous 90% federal funding that the ACA currently provides. Since Medicaid recipients frequently move in and out of coverage—because of job losses or changes, seasonal work, or changes in family circumstances—the Republican proposal effectively means that Medicaid-eligible individuals may not be able to afford coverage once they lose it for any reason.”

“Trump was bullish about Republican chances of passing a health care bill, tweeting Monday, ‘Republicans will come together and save the day.’ ‘ObamaCare is imploding. It is a disaster and 2017 will be the worst year yet, by far!’ he tweeted” [AP]. “You must do it, Catullus. You must do it whether it can be done or not.” I don’t see where the Republicans get the votes; in the House, the loons in the Freedom Caucus; in the Senate, Senators up for re-election in Medicaid expansion states, and Republican governors like Kasich. Nevertheless, the Republicans are feral in a way the that Democrats are not; they have the will to power. But is there a “they” there, now? Or has the Republican Party as a collective entity lost its will to power, even as factions within it have not?

Trump Transition

“President Trump plans to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at the gold-plated Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida next month for a lowering-the-temperature summit with vast economic and security implications” [Axios]. “Gold-plated”? Breaking my heart. I thought the gold was solid!

“Trump to Meet the ‘Other’ World Leader Wiretapped by Obama” [Russia Insider]. That is, Angela Merkel. My impression is that Russia Insider isn’t especially reliable, but weapons-grade snark like that is too good not to link to.

UPDATE “‘What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other,’ [Trump senior counselor Kellyanne ] Conway said as the Trump presidency marked its 50th day in office during the weekend. ‘You can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets — any number of ways'” [USA Today]. “[H]er remarks are significant — and potentially explosive — because they come amid a request by the House Intelligence Committee for the White House to turn over any evidence by Monday that the phones at Trump Tower were tapped as part of what the president claims to be a secret plot by the Obama administration to monitor his campaign…. Now comes Conway’s insinuation of a much broader surveillance plan against Trump. Her suggestion, while further stirring up the debate, appears to indicate that the White House does not plan to back down from Trump’s original Twitter claim in spite of strong assertions that it is not true from the U.S. intelligence community as well as from former president Barack Obama himself and members of his inner circle.”

UPDATE “The definitive Trump-Russia timeline of events” [Politico]. Fine word, “definitive”! For example:

March 19: John Podesta’s staff is [1] told incorrectly by another Clinton campaign staffer that an email instructing him to change his password is legitimate. [2]The action allows Russian hackers into Podesta’s account.

Seems odd that there’s a link at [1] but not at [2]. An editorial oversight, I am sure.

“Traditional television, a medium considered so last century, has watched audiences drift away for the better part of a decade. Now rattled liberals are surging back, seeking catharsis, solidarity and relief” [New York Times]. “‘When Obama was in office, I felt like things were going O.K.,’ Jerry Brumleve, 58, a retiree from Louisville, Ky., said last week as he stood in line for a ‘Daily Show’ taping in Manhattan. These days, he is a newfound devotee of Rachel Maddow of MSNBC — ‘She’s always talking about the Russians!’ his wife, Yvonne, chimed in — and believes Mr. Stewart’s successor, Trevor Noah, has finally ‘hit his stride.'” Joseph Goebbels, courtesy phone…

UPDATE “During his political rise, Stephen K. Bannon was a man with no fixed address” [WaPo]. WaPo does actual reporting, things like utility bills, which is pleasant to see. I think they buried the lead: “‘[E]ntire Jacuzzi bathtub seems to have been covered in acid,’ the landlord wrote in the February 2015 email to Bannon.” Really? Was it brown?

How soon we forget:

Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE “While Trump Was Dominating In Deep-Red Oklahoma, This Democrat Won A Landslide” [HuffPo]. Critical:

As precinct data rolled into his war room at the Aloft Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City last November, Joe Maxwell realized his team had a landslide on its hands.

He saw no need to delay the victory speeches, having been up since before daybreak orchestrating a statewide get-out-the-vote operation for what was expected to be a close contest. His team took the elevator to the rooftop bar, where about 50 small farmers gathered anxiously to watch the returns and, they hoped, celebrate.

For the previous 14 months, they had battled a so-called “right to farm” ballot initiative, with Maxwell serving as “the general” (to quote his friends) of that campaign. Corporate agricultural interests in Oklahoma hoped the measure would protect factory farming from environmental, food safety and humanitarian regulations. The deep-red state’s Republican governor and every member of its all-GOP congressional delegation backed it.

In response, Maxwell, who works for the Humane Society, had helped assemble an opposition force of animal welfare activists, environmental groups, Native American tribes and family farmers. Few political strategists would have picked that coalition to overcome the influence of the state’s dominant industry. But there Maxwell was, quietly enjoying a beer as he listened to former state Attorney General Drew Edmondson (D) deliver the news of their crushing victory to a cheering audience. The ‘no’ vote had carried every congressional district in the state and defeated Big Ag by more than 20 points.

If you think of Iowa farmers battling Big Ag as a colonized people battling metropolitan capital, a lot falls into place. Of course, the Democrat Establishment would dismiss this. What does smashing Big Ag by 20 points have to do with Vladimir Putin? (And why did anti-fracking groups never coalesce with anything larger, or did they and I missed it?)

UPDATE “Democrats Strike Back in the Redistricting Wars” [Bloomberg]. Hey, with Eric Holder chairing the effort… Done deal, or what?

“Is Trump Trolling the White House Press Corps?” [The New Yorker]. Spicer’s calling on a bunch of thirty-somethings from right-wing venues. First, so what? Maybe the White House Press Corps could junk the access journalism and do some actual reporting. Second, in 2016 most of the major venues — most certainly the Times and WaPo — became open advocates for one candidate in their reporting. They became political players. And now they’re being treated that way. Why is anybody surprised by this?

UPDATE “Five myths about the deep state” [Marc Ambinder, WaPo]. I invite defenders of the “deep state” as a coherent concept to rule Ambinder’s use of the term correct or incorrect.

Stats Watch

Labor Market Conditions Index, February 2017: “Monthly employment reports have been very solid but the labor market conditions index is barely above zero, at 0.6 percent in February” [Econoday]. “Aside from a series of negative readings this time last year, this indicator’s current run is the weakest of the recovery.” Whoa!

Shipping: “Trucking companies are brimming with confidence in the U.S. economy, if hiring is any indication. Fleets hired at the fastest pace in five years in February” [Wall Street Journal].

Logistics Manager’s Index: “The Logistics Manager’s Index (LMI), which is similar in approach to the long-running Purchasing Managers Index produced by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), is based on a brief monthly poll that asks North American logistics managers whether factors like warehousing capacity, utilization, and prices; inventory levels and costs; and transportation capacity, utilization, and prices are increasing, decreasing, or staying the same. This information can serve as a leading indicator of the health of the overall economy, according to Dale S. Rogers, professor of logistics and supply chain management at Arizona State University, one of the five schools collaborating on the index” [DC Velocity]. “Separate indices for the various elements are combined to create the overall LMI score, which is indicated as a percentage. The November/December LMI came in at 62.9 percent, an increase of 8 percentage points from the October reading of 54.9 percent. The LMI is calculated using a ‘diffusion’ index—a reading above 50 percent indicates that logistics activity is expanding, and a reading below 50 percent indicates that it is shrinking.”

Labor Power: While old-style manufacturing jobs will not return, there is great potential for job growth in modern factories where people and automated equipment work together (you can read about one such factory here). However, these will require employees with different skill sets from those needed in the past” [DC Velocity]. “As a nation, we need to concentrate our educational efforts on the technical jobs needed for the future because competition will be fierce. Remember those 1.4 million new robots expected within the next two years? An estimated 40 percent of them will be headed to factories in China.” Hmm.

From the Department of Don’t Worry, Everything’s Great: “U.S. Subprime Auto Loan Losses Reach Highest Level Since the Financial Crisis” [Bloomberg].

Rapture Index: Closes up 1 on inflation: “Slow economic growth is putting downward pressure on prices” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, 189 (October 10, 2016). Current: 182.

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 63 Greed (previous close: 65, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 69 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 13 at 1:02pm. Dullsville.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Noted without comment:

Class Warfare

Why the Internet should be a public utility:

UPDATE “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” [Yale Law Journal]. Extremely important. From the abstract:

This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to “consumer welfare,” defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon’s dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output. Specifically, current doctrine underappreciates the risk of predatory pricing and how integration across distinct business lines may prove anticompetitive. These concerns are heightened in the context of online platforms for two reasons. First, the economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits, a strategy that investors have rewarded. Under these conditions, predatory pricing becomes highly rational—even as existing doctrine treats it as irrational and therefore implausible. Second, because online platforms serve as critical intermediaries, integrating across business lines positions these platforms to control the essential infrastructure on which their rivals depend. This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors.

This Note maps out facets of Amazon’s dominance. Doing so enables us to make sense of its business strategy, illuminates anticompetitive aspects of Amazon’s structure and conduct, and underscores deficiencies in current doctrine. The Note closes by considering two potential regimes for addressing Amazon’s power: restoring traditional antitrust and competition policy principles or applying common carrier obligations and duties.

News of the Wired

To spot a liar, look at their hands” [Quartz]. “Those who were lying were found more likely to have animated hand movements, make strong eye contact, nod their heads, and scowl. When researchers transcribed the audio, they also found that liars were more likely to say ‘um’ and to use pronouns that distanced themselves from the action, such as ‘he’ or ‘she’ rather than ‘I’ or ‘we.'” Now you’ve told them!

“These are the signs a civilisation is about to collapse – and they’re here now” [Metro]. Sort of amazing to see a UK free tab citing Peter Turchin and Arthur Demarest, “a professor at Vanderbilt University who specialises in the end of civilisations… Demarest says that the collapse, when it comes, can be very quick indeed – with Mayan civilisation going from a relative peak in 790AD to being ‘in pieces’ by 810AD.” Not sure what that does to valuations….

“Numbers are this really simple invention. These words that reify concepts are a cognitive tool. But it’s so amazing to think about what they enable as a species. Without them we seem to struggle differentiating seven from eight consistently; with them we can send someone to the moon. All that can be traced back to someone, somewhere saying, “Hey, I have a hand of things here.” Without that first step, or without similar first steps made to invent numbers, you don’t get to those other steps” [Smithsonian]. “You develop numbers that allow you to trade in more precise ways. As that facilitates things like trade and agriculture, that puts pressure to invent more numbers. In turn those refined number systems are going to enable new kinds of trade and more precise maps, so it all feeds back on each other. It seems like a chicken and egg situation, maybe the numbers came first but they didn’t have to be there in a very robust form to enable certain kinds of behaviors. It seems like in a lot of cultures once people get the number five, it kickstarts them. Once they realize they can build on things, like five, they can ratchet up their numerical awareness over time. This pivotal awareness of “a hand is five things,” in many cultures is a cognitive accelerant.” Well worth a read!

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. And here’s today’s plant (PP):

PP writes: “Meyer lemon tree blooming with amaryllis behind.” At this point, anything with the word “bloom” in it encourages me; and the reflections of the amaryllis in the glass ornament are pleasing.

Readers, Water Cooler is a standalone entity, not supported by the very successful Naked Capitalism fundraiser just past. Now, I understand you may feel tapped out, but when and if you are able, please use the dropdown to choose your contribution, and then click the hat! Your tip will be welcome today, and indeed any day. Water Cooler will not exist without your continued help.


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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Altandmain

    This was linked back in October 2016 by Yves, but I don’t think it got the attention it deserved.

    Bill Black’s article on Clinton’s Goldman Sachs leak from Wikileaks. I just found out about this one.


    The general media has been treating the WikiLeaks disclosures of the Clinton campaign documents, particularly the transcripts of her lucrative talks with Goldman Sachs as much ado about nothing. I have not found any article about the disclosures, however, that reported on the extraordinary statements she made in her talk with Goldman Sachs on June 4, 2013.

    Hillary told the Vampire Squid that the “good news” was that China was removing workers’ (meager) legal protections so that their employers could “forc[e] down wages” in order to increase corporate profits.

    The transcript of her talk to the Vampire Squid shows that Hillary did not understand that anyone could disagree that “forcing down” Chinese workers’ already inadequate wages represented “good news.” She knew her audience. The Vampire Squid, as Matt Taibbi aptly labeled Goldman Sachs partners (though I think he was unfair to vampire squids), are as Hillary noted “the experts” on “forcing down wages.” Hillary didn’t even add a perfunctory statement of supposed concern for the workers who would have their wages forced down in China and the U.S.

    No wonder Clinton was so desperate to prevent the Goldman Sachs speeches from leaking out.

    Even now after her defeat, we still don’t have anything official from her campaign. That may mean she is interested in a 2020 run.

    1. Ivy

      Paging Foxconn Butterfield.
      No truth to the rumor that Hillary would’ve installed suicide nets at the White House.

    2. dcrane

      I noticed that the “good news” part wasn’t in the quote given in the link above, so I looked up a longer transcript. The “good news” bit ends the previous paragraph, which pertains to a digression, not the specific point in the quoted section. It’s not clear to me that the good news comment connects to the bit about China dealing with its “structural economic problems”, nor what actions she was referring to at that point. Maybe if I understood the economics more I would get it.

      I’m no defender of Clinton generally (Bernie supporter), and I’ve seen plenty from these speeches that bothers me, but I do think that short quotes taken out of context waste a lot of people’s time, and this might be an example.

      Here’s a longer quote:

      “…One of the biggest concerns I had over the last four years was the concern that was manifested several different ways that the PLA, the People’s Liberation Army, was acting somewhat independently; that it wasn’t just a good cop/bad cop routine when we would see some of the moves and some of the rhetoric coming out of the PLA, but that in effect that were making some foreign policy.

      And Hu Jintao, unlike Jiang Zemin before him, never really captured the authority over the PLA that is essential for any government, whether it’s a civilian government in our country or a communist party government in China. So President Xi is doing much more to try to assert his authority, and I think that is also good news.

      Thirdly, they seem to — and you all are the experts on this. They seem to be coming to grips with some of the structural economic problems that they are now facing. And look, they have them. There are limits to what enterprises can do, limits to forcing down wages to be competitive, all of which is coming to the forefront; limits to a real estate bubble. All of the cyclical business issues that they’re going to have to confront like every other economy, and they seem to be making steps to do so.

      On the not so good side there is a resurgence of nationalism inside China that is being at least condoned, if not actively pushed by the new Chinese government. You know, Xi Jinping talks about the Chinese dream, which he means to be kind of the Chinese version of the American dream.”

      Perhaps the “also” before “good news” means that the items listed (the third of which was quoted) were all supposed to be good news, which would make the criticism valid.

      1. Marina Bart

        I’d have to see the longer version to have an opinion about whether “also” here refers to beating up on workers’ legal rights. I would suspect it does, but you’re right — we shouldn’t make the mistake of over-reading this or any other text. I do think it’s compelling just in what you have quoted that she presents such a narrow vision of what enterprises can do, which includes contextually the implied idea that forcing down wages is good (in China), and that real estate bubbles are a normal part of the business cycle. I’m not an economist, but that’s not correct, is it, in any school of economic thought?

        This caught my eye, as well:

        essential for any government, whether it’s a civilian government in our country or a communist party government in China

        What the what? I don’t think “civilian” is the opposite of “communist.” And it’s pretty rich for her to be piously claiming it’s important for the leader of the country to control the military, when she had just spent four years undermining her own president’s role as commander-in-chief to instigate military action of her, rather than his, desire. Perhaps that’s her own little weird dig at Obama for being weak in the face of her insubordination.

        She really scares me.

      2. Foppe

        Point is, this doesn’t make sense. What structural economic issues *in China* were thus far solved by wage repression? Competition with SE-Asia? Is she hinting at or hoping for a different ‘growth model’ (which GS would be ‘expert on’)? Or is she thinking of policy changes that would increase this race to the bottom? What ‘steps’, in the business press at the time she gave that speech, were being ascribed to the chinese govt and praised? (I don’t know, don’t follow it.)

      3. Altandmain

        I’d say that:

        – She wants to prevent a Chinese estate bubble
        – She wants to make Chinese wages “Competitive” and sees enterprise (read: ruthless capitalists) forcing down wages to be a good thing

        The other question I have is, if she felt this speech were so innocent, why not publicly reveal it?

  2. cocomaan

    The auto loan meltdown looks pretty grim. But what did we expect? At least houses have a chance to appreciate. Anyone who bought securities based around loans on an asset that loses value as soon as it’s turned on was out of their minds.

    Right after that article about subprime auto is one about investors shorting commercial real estate. I guess all the Walk In Clinics paid for with those sweet obamacare dollars didn’t save CRE.

    I haven’t seen anyone talking about the dovetailing of those two crises.

    1. DJG

      Cocomaan: Is the auto loan meltdown also related to the rise of Uber and Lyft and their requirements that the serfs have nice cars? I’m seeing tremendous numbers of dark-colored low-slung SUV-things in Chicago these days, often with the tell-tale decals.

      1. cocomaan

        I think Lambert or Yves could better comment on that because they’ve been paying close attention to Uber, their fleets, and their promises. But my hunch is that, sure, why not? Cash for Clunkers took tons of used cars off the market and if you’re hammering the shit out of your ride by Ubering people around all day, you need a new car, not to mention the aesthetic appeal you mention!

      2. Octopii

        Same in DC. Haven’t looked, but I bet it’s hard to find a black luxury SUV 1-2 years old on the used market.

  3. Vatch

    Readers, I confess — and this may show something about my temperament — that I sprang back instead of springing forward. After having a conversation about the time change!

    Daylight Savings Time is stupid. It’s less of a problem in the Spring, when we spring forward, but it can cause genuine problems in computer systems in the Fall, when we fall back. If software is based on local time, rather than UTC, the same time will occur twice, and some events might be recorded as occurring before the events that actually preceded them. If a computer program depends on events occurring in a certain order, this can be more than troublesome.

    A few years ago, in the autumn, I arrived at a restaurant to have lunch before it opened, because I had forgotten to reset my clocks.

    1. Kokuanani

      One of the hosts of a sports radio talk show I listen to had a great idea re Daylight Savings Time: instead of burying it [at least the “spring forward” one] in the middle of the night, so you feel like you’re losing an hour of sleep, why not have it on a Monday afternoon. You’re at work, and it’s 4 pm. Voila. It’s now 5 pm and you can go home!!!

        1. RWood

          Bad/poor choice, “communalism” — no aspersions wished.
          Should have stuck to “communist.”
          Meant some envisioning of all people’s non-linear “use” or “naming” of “time.”
          A contrary to capitalism’s determination of time as a machine line.

      1. none

        why not have it on a Monday afternoon. You’re at work, and it’s 4 pm. Voila. It’s now 5 pm and you can go home!!!

        What? A Monday afternoon at the office without a 4:20pm? My union will never stand for it!

    2. Big River Bandido

      IIRC from my studies of the U.S. in World War II, most of the nation went on the equivalent of Daylight Savings Time year-round for the duration of the war, as an energy-saving maneuver. The news bulletins from that era have datelines like “Washington, 3 PM Eastern War Time”.

      I would prefer going on Daylight Savings Time, and simply staying on it.

  4. p7b

    re: “parts from hell”

    IMO This is in part a result of the compartmentalization of modern supply chains – processes are outsourced, among other reasons, to reduce risk, in the business sense. As a side effect you reduce responsibility.

    The parts manufacturer does not have the knowledge to address system level issues, and the development or quality engineer in the parent company with the expertise does not have the clout to pull the plug on a million-part contract once the wheels have started turning.

    The natural way to avoid an impossible situation for the parent company is to turn a blind eye and make it look like the problem “inevitably” fell into the cracks between entities in the supply chain, when in fact the expertise to detect and address it did exist. If the supply chain is overseas there is even less accountability.

  5. djrichard

    I had no idea that Germany had such a low fertility rate and for so long: Google public data page comparing fertility rates for Germany, Japan, US, France

    Japan seems to get all the press on this, which I’ve always attributed to the malaise of their lost decades (propping up high prices to protect housing and other debt). Which is what got me started looking at this, in how this same dynamic seems to be happening in the US.

    It would be interesting to understand what the dynamic is in Germany, especially given that Germany is often portrayed as a being more functional vis-a-vis the circumstances for labor there. A superficial reading of the graph that I linked to suggests that it’s the same over-arching dynamic that happened to the US and France: i.e. the effects of the pill. Except where the US and France plateaued at a higher level, for some reason Germany plateaued at a lower level.

    Has some relevance to the immigration debate there too: https://qz.com/587493/even-all-its-refugees-cant-help-prevent-germanys-longterm-population-decline/

    1. Vatch

      Population decline would be a good thing on our overpopulated planet. Countries with low birth rates should be praised.

      1. Code Name D

        Not that simple. Watching these population declines reveales a lot of distructive complictions. Things such as labor shortges and colapsing infrstructure become real problems we haven’t learned how to manage yes.

        Of course it dosn’t help they still take place in an expand at all costs mentality.

        The realy disterbing thing is why this is happening dosn’t appear to be fully understood.Reducing over population is a good thing – assuming we can eventauly reverse it and stablize the population again. But what if we can’t reverse the trend?

        1. Vatch

          The United States has a relatively high birth rate, immigration, and a growing population. We also have unemployment (the opposite of labor shortages) and collapsing infrastructure. I’ve seen articles about infrastructure problems in Germany, but they are still far better than the U.S. See this (6 years old, but still relevant):


          You ask whether we could reverse the trend if the population ever begins to decline. We currently have 7.4 billion people on Earth. If we ever manage to get our population down to 1 billion, then we can worry about reversing the trend. I’m pretty sure that people will still know how to make babies.

          1. fresno dan

            March 13, 2017 at 4:07 pm

            AND the robots are suppose to take all the jobs anyways….
            And according to the “market” aren’t all these collapsing labor markets SUPPOSE to raise wages?

          2. John Wright

            I’d say California infrastructure is not doing well as the various highways I travel such as I-880, I-80 and US101 could use a lot of repair

            Then there is the Oroville Dam built in 1968, when the CA population was 19.4 million vs 38.8 million now.

            And the CA coastal economy is viewed as doing well, so infrastructure would seem to be a reasonable investment.

            With the scaling of population, it seems CA should have more infrastructure and better maintenance of what is there.

            The economics profession always pushes that population must always grow and simply assumes the economy can always accommodate any population increase.

            One can imagine a Native American economist in the 1600’s telling his tribal elders not to worry about the new arrivals, as the large American continent could handle the population increase without any problems.

            The concept of a limiting carrying capacity of an environment is not in the economics playbook, as human ingenuity will always solve any problem..

        2. witters

          “Things such as labor shortages and collapsing infrastructure become real problems we haven’t learned how to manage yet.”

          The Plague in Europe saw incredible labor shortages and infrastructure collapse. Then growth kicked in, and wages went up and so on. A boom.

          The question is whether industrial market society can do as well as Feudalism under similar circumstances.

          What are the odds?

          1. Oregoncharles

            A college lecturer claimed, plausibly, that the Black Death caused the Renaissance: there was suddenly twice as much to go around.

            It also had a measurable effect on the climate; less tillage, less CO2 in the air, it got colder.

            1. Vatch

              According to Walter Scheidel in The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, pandemics such as the Black Death of the 14th century reduce the severity of economic inequality. When death from disease reduces the number of people who can perform the labor, the nobles and other land owners are compelled to treat the remaining laborers better. Sometimes markets benefit the workers.

              Note that the violence in Scheidel’s title isn’t necessarily revolutionary violence. In fact, it’s more often something else, such as warfare involving mass mobilization, the collapse of the state, or a vast epidemic.

      2. different clue

        And countries with high birth rates should not be permitted to freeload on the countries with low birthrates by sending their high birth-rated people to the countries which have done the work of lowering their birthrates.

      1. Oregoncharles

        It would still be useful to know why/how. All the better if it’s a deep rooted part of the culture.

  6. Alex Morfesis

    Lamberto…bambino…yes…historical amnesia…methinx the problem is with the Chilean rejection of Pinochet in 1988 a few weeks after the September 11th Song of Estonia where 300 thousand(25%+ of population) showed up to sing, showing the little peoples of the world one can in fact be free & the subsequent devolution of dictaterz and overlords in the next 13 months with the fall of the wall & the dissolution of the Soviet union 25 months after that…

    One was left with the impression things might go right for a while…

    But the klintones made sure that dreamland would not last…

    Personally…I blame oprah for everything…

      1. Alex Morfesis

        We are drowning in Byzantine datamongering…there is nothing new in our attempts to play nice vs those who would do harm and care not to be reasonable…

        we cant do “x y &z” not because we dont want to, they say with a smile, but because of “a b & c + xxx”…

        The NC krewe provides a monstrous amount of edibles every day…I have given up trying to absorb it all…

        Do what you can in the mindspace available to peaceably do it…

        The butterflies don’t care that it’s monday, and the bricks will still be here long after we have turned to dust…

          1. Marina Bart

            I meant to comment this morning that “datamongering” is a cool word I have never read before. it’s great that it packs in both the implied violence and contemptible nature of warmongering.

            I see that it is already being used in the wild, but in oddly positive ways. Since there are no positive underlying associations to the word’s root or history, this has probably dampened uptake and usage.

            I think we can fix that…

    1. polecat

      Hey .. don’t laugh … for all we know, Oprah could be our next pres. come 2020 !

      HeyZeus help us if THAT scenario comes to fruition !!

  7. ChrisAtRU

    Internet As Public Utility

    Not-So-Gentle-Reminder: AT&T and other ISP’s actively lobby to ensure that states and municipalities DO NOT provide public internet access.


    1. ChrisAtRU

      Struggle Over Russia Policy

      Jacobin has delivered a good read on one of my favourite talking points regarding “Russian Interference”: i.e. American interference in Russian elections on behalf of Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin of course went on to pluck a relatively unknown ex-KGB/FSB operative to be his deputy in 1999 – Vladimir Putin.

      #Irony #Comeuppance

      1. ChrisAtRU


        Friend of mine alerted me to this Instagram feed. I do not have an Instagram account, but the content here appears to be public, so everyone can see. Some pictures do have short anecdotes.

        Reminds me of this: Private prisons create a demand for more prisoners.

          1. ChrisAtRU

            Weeeelllll … while there are instances where that may be demonstrably true, profit is not the ethos of public prisons. Public prisons are a necessity of law enforcement … which serves the public good. Good law enforcement seeks to reduce crime and the number of criminals. The better law enforcement departments in this country and elsewhere work with communities toward this shared goal. Private prison lobbyists work to increase enforcement, penalties, arrest and prosecution with a view toward making sure their coffers are always full, thus justifying the need for their existence as a business. To be fair, it’s extended beyond just the lobbyists now. See this article on how police and prison guard groups have joined in the fray as well. So your point is well taken if we accept that the profit to be made from incarceration has benefits regardless of nature of the prison complex (public or private).


  8. Goyo Marquez

    Umm… figures don’t lie… but this lying study seems bogus, (insert direct eye contact, gesturing with two hands here):

    “The same gestures were also used by some people telling the truth, but to a lesser extent: 25% of truthful people gestured with both hands, compared to 40% of liars. Sixty percent of truthful people looked directly at the questioner, compared to 70% of liars.”

    1. Linda

      It may be that we’ve been told so often that liars look away and not directly in another’s eyes, that professional-grade liars know that giveaway, and make a point to look in eyes to be convincing. When your tell is given up, you correct it.

      Also, I move my hands more when nervous, so possibly liars are a little nervous because they know they’re lying and thus the hand gestures.

      1. Gary

        A “tell” is subconscious. That’s what makes it a “tell”. Good liars perform what I liked to call affectations in order to simulate sincerity. I think the eye contact and such would fall into the category as affectation. I used to attend monthly meetings with a vendor group. I studied one particular actor who often was the spokesperson. He had a squint he would do to simulate sincerity. That did not always mean he was lying but there was something else he was not telling.
        I don’t think there is any true way to judge if a stranger is being truthful or not. People you deal with often though can be observed and their stressors learned.

        1. Linda

          Yes, good points. We are all different. Not always making eye contact could just be a shyness. Yes, I understand “tell.” Poorly worded on my part. More like an (supposed) unknown “tell” was made known to the masses.

          Ha. I think I know that sincere squint.

          1. fresno dan

            March 13, 2017 at 4:25 pm

            I cannot put together a coherent sentence if I am looking into somebody’s eyes – I find it extremely distracting to concentrating on what I am going to say.

            1. Dead Dog

              It’s a learned ability, Dan. My Mother in particular demanded that I look her in the eyes when talking to her. She saw that trait in a person as a way of showing respect, that you weren’t afraid to look your betters in the eye.

              I have a personal bias against ‘blinkers’ – those whose eyes blink away like mad when they are mis speaking. (In fact in a few country towns I spent some time in, there was usually a bloke with the nick name ‘Blinky’.)

              Couldn’t lie straight in bed was one my Mother’s favorites

    2. Goyo Marquez

      I’m just saying the difference is pretty small, 25% vs. 40% and 60% vs. 70%. Unless this was a really large sample the differences seem meaningless. Also as a trial lawyer the idea that jury verdicts automatically reflect truth seems pretty ludicrous. ???

      1. Linda

        I did pick up on your point, 60 and 70%, on second read later. Sorry to have missed it. Thanks, Goyo. I gotcha.

      2. Carl

        Spot on. We deem the result justice, but it often isn’t really. It’s a most imperfect vehicle for arriving at the truth, and sometimes it doesn’t.

      3. diptherio

        They could have said that 60% of liars don’t move their hands and majorities of both liars and truth-tellers make eye-contact…wonder why they didn’t?[/sarc]

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef


      Wherever you go, there you are.

      And from time to time, to go east, one moves west. Similarly, to get to the left, one might have to go right.

      That is, one might go back when moving forward.

      Especially, when one takes a Great Leap Forward…a small step forward for man, a giant leap backward for mankind…

  9. Carla

    Lambert: “We have the struggle to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare, which has suddenly turned into an effort to gut Medicaid.”

    As I understand it, Medicaid is being gutted to provide a big tax cut to the 0.01%, whose taxes were raised to help pay for Obamacare. Trump’s gotta take care of his people, you know. And it’s no fun unless you take it from those who have the very least.

    1. Paid Minion

      If you are going to get rid of Obamacare, you might as well go for the whole enchilada, and gut Medicaid as well. You are going to take a big political hit, no matter what you do.

      The Republicans are between a rock and a hard place, of their own creation. Their “base” wants Obamacare dumped without a replacement, and believe in the “free market” fairy tale. So they promised to “dump Obamacare”. Now, they are facing the reality that dumping it without “replacing” it will be a quick ticket to the unemployment line. So the talk about “improving” things. The problem is anything looking like an “entitlement” will drive their base nuts.

      Face it……..a significant percentage of the population prefers to treat poor people like ants on a sunny sidewalk under a kid’s magnifying glass,

      I’ve given up on these people. If you try to “fix” something, and the problem gets worse, common sense dictates that your “fix” isn’t working, and maybe you should do something else.

      Here in Kansas, you would think that eight years of Sam Brownback’s Trickle Down plan would force people to recognize that reality. You would be wrong. To them, a “taker” getting an extra “unearned” $25/month is a crime against humanity, but nothing is said about the multitude of ways rich people and businesses rip them off for millions.

      Now all we need is the “deep state” guys to try to stage a coup. Our conversion to Banana Republic will then be complete.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Is there anything we can do?

        Protest? Yes.

        Offer an alternative? Definite. Someone please go meet with Trump and present that. Those congressional Republicans never liked him.

        1. dcrane

          But then Trump would need Democrats to join him in Congress. And given the apparent mentality of a lot of Democrats these days, denying Trump the possibility of a political victory will probably outrank giving Americans good healthcare.

          1. Marina Bart

            Probably? It’s guaranteed!

            But if Trump actually had the courage and wisdom to get behind Medicare For All, he would place Democrats in a terrible trap. If they refused to vote for it, even the New York Times would have a hard time spinning it. And then the Republicans could go into the mid-terms saying “the Democrats don’t want you to have health care, either, so why vote for them?” Can you imagine?

            He should do it. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t get the bill passed, because even with ALL the Democrats in the House, there probably aren’t enough Republicans who might conceivably break ranks to join them in order to reach a majority. The Democrats are incredibly weak as a party now, which is reflected in their weak representation in the House. And of course, there’s the likely problem that a lot of the elected “Democrats” were picked by Rahm, Tim, Debbie and their henches precisely for their corporate sympathies and unwillingness to do anything for citizens. You won’t get them all. It goes against their actual beliefs, class interests, and owners’ interests.

            Which makes it even sillier that Trump isn’t savvy enough to make the play. But he probably can’t. At this point, he can’t fight the Republican Party openly. He needs an institutional counterweight to protect him from the CIA and its governmental allies trying to crush him. (Which, of course, is part of the point, because the rest of the Republican party is nicely neoliberal, just the way Democratic leadership and the plutocrats both prefer.) And the Republican Party’s leadership and funders are deeply invested in depriving people of health care, even if it hurts them the way it hurts the Democrats.

      2. tgs

        Actually the Republicans are in even worse trouble than you suggest. Most polling shows the majority of people, including Republican voters, want Obamacare improved. A smaller group likes it as is. Those who want repeal and no replace are a tiny minority. Most people are not ideological about this issue – they just want good, affordable healthcare.

        A guy on Fox the other night said, we have to make Trumpcare work, or a Democrat is going to come along in 2020 and initiate single payer. That scares the hell out of them.

          1. sleepy

            Now would be the perfect political time for dems to shout single payer each and every time they get on tv. Medicare for all? Pelosi isn’t even a cosponsor. Dem establishment doesn’t want it anymore than the repubs.

            For the dems, Trump is the perfect greater evilism. That’s about it.

      3. EyeRound

        Brains re-configured by money! And you don’t necessarily have to be the owner of piles of it, your very own brain just has to be aligned with it.

        Watch out it doesn’t happen to you!

        In 1848 Marx observed that in the commodity world the NEEDS of the destitute, consistently unmet, would become progressively “unreal” in comparison to the DESIRES of those with money, which desires were eminently meet-able.

        So Stage one of brain-money: new conception of the real vs the not-real.
        Then Stage two: guilty conscience as you realize how many faces you have to step on to get and keep your money. This coincides roughly with the age of factory work in Europe and the US, and culminates in the Nazi labor-and-death camps.
        Then Stage Three: bad conscious and denial (IOW lots of suppressed memory). The “liberal” stage.
        Then Stage Four (where we seem to be today): outright sadism. Those who have money and/or whose brains are aligned with money ACTUALLY DESIRE to see the poor suffer and perish.

        The sadism is everywhere in the business-government world and it didn’t just arise with Trump. Try looking at the government-sponsored “homeowner rescue” schemes (“rescuing” them from foreclosure) that are designed to re-indebt those low-incomers who can be squeezed and simply toss out those who can’t.

        Isn’t it time we re-structured the order of money? Forget Bitcoin, but maybe MMT?

      4. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Their “base” wants Obamacare dumped without a replacement, and believe in the “free market” fairy tale.

        No, a portion of their base wants that. Major factional infighting. And to think that if Hills had just wandered round the country holding a sign that said “Medicare for All.” She would have won going away, and wouldn’t have had to say a word.

  10. LT

    Re: Salon article on Zuck for President…

    Silly Surveillicon Valley won’t be doing any “innovation” that is not allowed by the financial sector. That’s why their faux anti-establishment BS is…well, BS.
    But they really sucked up that 90s hype.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The president of the Republic of California.

      It would help, though, like Jefferson Davis, Zuck first serves the union by strengthening our defense, so, ironically DC can subdue the Californian rebels with a more effective fighting Pentagon.

    1. Outis Philalithopoulos

      clarky, posting a link to the review is fine. Repeatedly trying to post the entire text of the review comes very close to advertising and is not fine.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        And if one really wishes to add value, one would provide the link, an especially pertinent excerpt, like a paragraph or two, and then an explanation of why the quoted material is pertinent.

  11. Sandler

    I come here for news… If I want snarky cynicism I’ll watch MSNBC primetime. It’s tiring.

  12. Vatch

    “We picked the wrong billionaire: The case for Mark Zuckerberg 2020” [Salon]

    Marvelous. Maybe we’ll be able to choose among Crassus, Pompey, and Julius Caesar.

  13. jake

    “There’s no reason to put “victims” [of Obamacare] in scare quotes; the NC comments section provides plenty of examples.”

    Am not sure whose comments you’re referring to, but those who received actual care through Obamacare, at income levels low enough to qualify for subsidies — I’m one of them — are unlikely to consider themselves “victims”, in view of what they had (or didn’t) prior to the ACA.

    Obamacare is indeed a crap product, and the claim of market choice is ludicrous — there’s no basis to shop intelligently on the Exchanges — but that’s true of all health insurance plans offered to individuals in the U.S., and has been for years, long before ACA. The difference being, insurance (and with it, actual treatment) became available and, with subsidies, affordable, under ACA.

    Forgive me the anecdote, but I received 6 hours of MOH surgery at an office within walking distance in a major urban center, and paid not a dime for it — or for the diagnostic visits with another specialist, also within walking distance, which preceded it.

    This is thanks to a low income I wouldn’t wish on anyone else, but there are millions like me. I doubt many of them consider themselves “victims”, in light of the coverage they had (or didn’t) prior to Obamacare.

    1. diptherio

      The difference being, insurance (and with it, actual treatment) became available and, with subsidies, affordable, under ACA.

      $6,350 deductible is affordable?

      I received 6 hours of MOH surgery at an office within walking distance in a major urban center, and paid not a dime for it — or for the diagnostic visits with another specialist, also within walking distance, which preceded it.

      I’m happy you were able to get affordable care. If this were the experience everyone was having, there would be none of the high deductible, high co-pay, narrow network horror stories that, yes, we have heard plenty of in this space. Anecdote is not data, and the data show that people with high deductible insurance plans use less care…not need less care, use less…because (surprise, surprise) they can’t afford their deductible so any minor expense is coming directly out-of-pocket…until you cover the deductible, which is 1/3 of your yearly income…

      Medicare for all or bust. No more half-measures that send some to Happyville and some to Pain City (to quote Lambert).

      1. jake

        No half-measures? Really? I wonder if that eagerness to sacrifice would come as readily if the human cost was not someone else’s….

        Between 250,000 to 350,000 New Yorkers earning less than $24,000 (per person), but too much for Medicaid, are enrolled in the something called the Essential Plan with either no or very low deductibles, and no or very low premiums ($20/month, tops). At the lower tiers, coverage even includes dental and vision, and there are no costs at all.

        And you want them to forgo coverage, in the name of high principle, because it’s “Medicare for all or bust?” This in a country where Jill Stein got 1% of the popular vote?

        1. albrt

          I wish you the best with that plan. That is not the plan the rest of us got from Obamacare.

          Hard to form a coalition around something 300,000 people in New York got when no one else got it.

        2. marym

          HR 676 Expanded and Improved Medicare for All has no premiums or deductibles and includes visual and dental (Link). There are many reasons people did or didn’t vote for Stein, discussed here often and in detail, but I know of no evidence that her support for universal healthcare was the deal breaker. There are decades of polling showing support for publicly funded, comprehensive, universal health insurance (Links: 2009, 2016)

        3. Oregoncharles

          Isn’t that a New York program? Haven’t heard of it anywhere else. Seems like an example of Lambert’s critique, that the effects for people vary hugely and randomly.

          Unfortunately, one person’s happy experience doesn’t negate that criticism. Granted, it’s better than nothing, but it comes at a high price, especially because it serves to block off a real, universal solution.

    2. Fiery Hunt

      I’ve paid $2,700 ($1,500 this year alone!) for the privilege of not having insurance! Or more to the point, so YOU can get free insurance.
      Meanwhile, I can at best get uninsurance of $400 a month, $7,000 deductible or pay fines.

      Trust me when I say I can’t afford either option.

      But you go on with your “I got mine!” attitude.

    3. OIFVet

      Well ain’t you the lucky ducky! You didn’t pay a dime for your care, which tells me that you are on Medicaid, not in one of those crappy, high-deductible, small network policies. So you got yours, and to hell with those with only slightly larger incomes than yours, who are forced to pay through the teeth for a product that they cannot afford to use. Good for you jake!

      1. jake

        Oh, dear me, the venom here is remarkable. No, I’m not on Medicaid. If you must know, it was an Exchange policy provided by the now-defunct Health Republic of NY — and before you start on the “I told you sos”, consult the legislative history. There’s a good reason the coops failed, it was Republican sabotage.

        The original point, which all of you seem determined to ignore, was that the “all or nothing” approach is not going to have high appeal to millions of Americans who have derived tangible benefits from ACA. This includes newly-qualified Medicaid recipients who have benefited greatly from ACA.

        Suggesting that all coverage be denied — “Medicare for All or bust!” — until full deliverance arrives strikes me as odd in the American public square. But go and ahead and persist with your absolutism, you’ll be as popular as Paul Ryan by the time you’re done.

        1. Fiery Hunt

          And how’s your Clinton incrementalism
          working out for you? Enjoying the Republican domination of EVERY FEDERAL BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT? Democrats are not “popular” anywhere but the coasts.

          You really should get out of the New York bubble more, jake.

          1. jake

            What does it take to admit that ACA, stinker though it is, has indeed benefited millions, even if they happen to be poor and near-poor, though you’re apparently not one of them?

            Or is that much intellectual honesty incompatible with high deductibles or insurance penalties you no longer have to pay?

            The displays of privileged pique, and the eagerness some evince here to deny tangible ACA benefits to the poor and near-poor — tens of millions of American — are at least refreshing for their brazenness.

            I do wonder how far “Medicare for All Or Nobody Gets Anything”! will take you in a country with 40 million people living in poverty. Just be sure to explain the matter clearly to the American working class: they get nothing, until you get yours. Sounds like a sure way to recapture all those lost Democratic seats.

            1. katiebird

              OK we’re thrilled for you. What would it take to get you to lose some sleep for the people stuck in Pain City?

              It makes me sick that the Dems were so successful at dividing us this way. And they continue to do it by “fighting for” ObamaCare like it has any value to those of us stuck in Pain City.

            2. Fiery Hunt

              Hey jake…
              Self-employed, working 80 hours a week, a renter (whose rent just went up 22%), no health insurance, no retirement…. .I AM part of that American working class, the part that’s barely making it……and the part you expect to pay for your health benefits.

              See, that’s the real point you seem to gloss over.

              How marvelously self-righteous of you to winge about the loss of a benefit (to you) that I (and LOTS of others) have paid for without like benefits…

              Not big on Solidarity, are you? Nice to know.

        2. marym

          Prior to the ACA I, and “millions of Americans….. derived tangible benefits from” employer-based health insurance, but still supported Medicare for All (see polling links above).

    4. lambert strether

      I am very glad you went to HappyVille and not to Pain City.

      If only everyone were as lucky as you!

  14. Carla

    Re: Why the Internet should be a public utility — hey, that’s my county you’re lookin’ at — Cuyahoga County on the shores of beautiful Lake Erie! Yep, that’s how we treat our poor people, too. Not a pretty picture.

    The Internet Service Provider in this country should be the U.S. Postal Service. This is from one of my favorite NC posts, an oldie but goodie by Mark Jamison (a former postmaster, NOT the guy Trump wants to head the FCC):

    “In the debates about the Postal Service, the public interest is too often forgotten. It’s worth quoting yet again the stirring words of Title 39:

    The United States Postal Service shall be operated as a basic and fundamental service provided to the people by the Government of the United States, authorized by the Constitution, created by Act of Congress, and supported by the people. The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities. The costs of establishing and maintaining the Postal Service shall not be apportioned to impair the overall value of such service to the people.

    If these words are to mean anything, the leaders of the Postal Service, Congress, and the Executive branch must be reminded that the Postal Service is there to serve not some narrow economic interests but the people of the United States.”


    A recent post on Jamison’s blog concerns plans to close the historic 1939 post office in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii:


    1. jrs

      It’s a minor battle though, really insignificant, compared to say something like all energy production and distribution being a public service. That has more potential to fix the mess we’re in.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I can see John Belushi in his best acting scene:

      “Was it over when the Russians bombed Pearl Harbor?”

      If that doesn’t inspire you to rise up and defend our beloved motherland against Putin.

      1. Alex Morfesis

        Just have palin put up some barbed wire across her fence with russia…that should work…or was that tina fey…either way…battle of diomede, here we come…

  15. John

    Bannon’s brown bathtub acid took me to the early Breaking Bad episode where Jesse and Walt dissolved the competing dealer’s body in acid in an upstairs bath. The whole mess collapsed through the floor.
    That probably more accurately describes President Bannon in his Breitbart days than selling bad acid at Woodstock.
    And I’m a geezer who was old enough to be at Woodstock.

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      First place my mind went too. Always thought the pig farm idea from Snatch was cleaner.

    2. Oregoncharles

      The bathtub scene originates with “La Femme Nikita”. Of course, in that one the guy turned out to be still alive.

  16. John k

    These people are the stupidest…
    No, no, no. Our best and brightest respect only money, and strive only to obtain more of it for themselves. The more they acquire the more worthy they are of respect, their own, of course, plus that of all the other elites.
    Zuckerberg has a lot of money, a really big pile, more even than trump. And he’s a dem! So dem elites will naturally bow and scrape to such a pile, hoping he might select them for his team.
    Clinton’s paltry fund only had so much to distribute, probably less than 100mm/yr… he could spend ten times that every year for the rest of his life… we will see many elites write reams of fawning articles so long as they hope he enters the race.

      1. sid_finster

        I suspect so. FB already furnishes enough data to the CIA, why not cement the relationship a little further?

        1. WheresOurTeddy

          I halfway expect $7M CorpPuppet Rachel Maddow to be pushing Zuckerberg/Bezos 2020 before too long.

          Is Washington big enough for both their egos? Is Earth?

      2. JCC

        Is Zuckerberg acceptable to the CIA?

        Yes, this is at least a 10 year old video that’s been cross-posted across youtube by many and numerous times. It was originally done by a Senior level student at Sarah Lawrence and got quite a bit of publicity in some circles when first posted. Very well done and very accurate. I was unable to find the original and lost the link to it years ago.

        I know Lambert is skeptical of a specific definable “deep state” but if there is one, M. Zuckerberg would probably be their lead candidate for President.

  17. DJG

    From Lambert: “Readers, I can’t recall a time when we’ve had multiple struggles for power, each enormously consequential in themselves, where policy is so enmeshed with complex technical material. We have the struggle to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare, which has suddenly turned into an effort to gut Medicaid; the struggle over Russsia policy, which is starting to turn on questions of surveillance law, and takes place against the background of an attempted soft coup by the intelligence community, the Democrat Establishment, and their assets in the press; and the struggle over the nature and the implications of Clinton’s 2016 debacle. And we don’t even have a financial crisis, or an EU crisis!”

    I am thinking of other times and places in history and what to draw on. What other eras had technology as a redefining force, reactions to perceived / real exterior threats, and a crisis of the elites (who were not stupid, to add Lambert’s other comment):

    Japan? The so-called opening. Technology, change. Internal revolution as the Meiji restoration. Rise of popular and democratic movements. U.S. and Russia as external threats. Result? The Japanese didn’t do so badly.

    Venice and Portugal. The change in the spice trade that cut into the Venetian economy. The threat of the Ottomans, who were matched and bested by the Venetians and avoided by the Portuguese. The result? The Venetian elites guided Venice to a comfortable place as a minor player (and then Napoleon looted Venice). The Portuguese elites were more equivocal, although it was hard to beat the creation of the Azores, Cape Verde Islands, and Madeira, as well as the Portuguese influence on Asia (see Japan). Portuguese rule in Brazil was mediocre, although compared to Spain, the Portuguese were downright enlightened.

    So can the U.S. become Japan? Venice? Portugal? Wowers. Heretical ideas. (Or am I stretching here?)

    1. DJG

      Closer to home, intellectually, historically?

      The Irish and the Scots. Technological and social change. The decline of religion as an organizing force. The uses of nationalism in less toxic forms. Collapse of the Anglophile elite in Northern Ireland. And getting away from an external threat: The English. (Maybe the U S of A should go back to thinking of the English as an external threat–Tony Blair certainly is.)


      Having taken a look at the web site of the Scottish Nationalist Party, I’d say that we would be lucky to have a party with those policies in the U S of A.

    2. polecat

      I suppose ‘parts’ of it can …..

      In it’s entirety ? .. not so much .. too unwieldy !

  18. DJG

    Lambert: You publish those tweets from Deray Mckesson to see if my eyeballs will pop out of my head. Moliere never did write “School of Studied Irrelevance.” I guess it had to wait for Mckesson.

    Is that what they teach them at Bowdoin?

    1. Uahsenaa

      DeRay is a corporate shill. He has in the past tweeted thinly veiled ads for various companies. This is just the latest example.

      See also his Teach For America boosterism… all the while claiming to be “woke.”

      1. Marina Bart

        He’s so dreadful. His tweets claiming to prove he’s not being paid for his obviously and hamhandedly sponsored tweets are particularly noxious. To me, he exudes smug. But there are lots of people on my Twitter feed who treat him as a real leader, who I would have thought were smarter/wiser/better informed/more woke than to fall for his act.

      2. WheresOurTeddy

        DeRay is the next generation of what Yves & Lambert call the Black Misleadership Class…

        Have no fear, John Lewis, Corey and DeRay will carry the banner of cashing checks and selling out poor people for years to come…

      3. Kurt Sperry

        Paid product placement in hip millennial activists’ social media streams… it’s marketing genius! Sellouts are a dime a dozen… everyone’s a winner!

  19. EndOfTheWorld

    Lambert, you did a “switcheroo booboo” there when you were talking about the Oklahoma election and it did a metamorphosis into Iowa. Big difference. The Iowa farmers lost their struggle with Big Agra a long time ago.

  20. diptherio

    Re: Deep State Myths in WaPo

    Defense contractors exulted at Trump’s election, as did a plurality of rank-and-file soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who voted for him. But top generals and career civilians, whose interests converge around the public good, civic norms and global stability, fretted.

    “…whose interests converge around the public good”?!?! Ha ha ha! That’s so precious! No one told him about the Iron Law of Institutions.

    1. TK421

      If you want to reduce the number of people who understand what you’re saying, that’s a good idea.

  21. allan

    American Citizens: U.S. Border Agents Can Search Your Cellphone [NBC]

    … Data provided by the Department of Homeland Security shows that searches of cellphones by border agents has exploded, growing fivefold in just one year, from fewer than 5,000 in 2015 to nearly 25,000 in 2016.

    According to DHS officials, 2017 will be a blockbuster year. Five-thousand devices were searched in February alone, more than in all of 2015.

    The more aggressive tactics of the past two years, two senior intelligence officials told NBC News, were sparked by a string of domestic incidents in 2015 and 2016 in which the watch list system and the FBI failed to stop American citizens from conducting attacks. The searches also reflect new abilities to extract contact lists, travel patterns and other data from phones very quickly.

    Running the surveillance state like a Silicon Valley startup. Break things and move fast.

  22. marym

    The Congressional Budget Office on Monday projected that the House leadership’s American Health Care Act would result in 24 million Americans losing their health insurance while raising premiums for those covered on the individual market. Their bill would lower federal deficits by $337 billion over 10 years, largely as a result of cuts to Medicaid that would reduce its enrollment by 14 million, according to the estimate. Average premiums would rise by as much as 20 percent in 2018 and 2019 before falling in later years.
    And after years of criticizing Democrats for cutting $700 billion from Medicare to pay for the Affordable Care Act, Republicans would have to defend a proposal that not only maintains those cuts but chops another $880 billion from Medicaid, according to the CBO. Those cuts offset the repeal of nearly $900 billion in tax increases on wealthy people and businesses in Obamacare.


    Premium decline after 2020 partially driven by actuarial value drop, which causes increase in other out-of-pocket

    (this and othe comments by https://twitter.com/porszag

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Here’s the full CBO report (which is only 37 pages long).

      FWIW, my gut take is that the ObamaCare repeal and replace stuff is taking a Republican plan (ObamaCare) and making it even more crappy than it is; but the crapification can only be marginal because the baseline is so low begin with.

      On the other hand, the Medicaid stuff is horrid (and came out of the blue for me, and I do try to keep track). It looks to me like capping Medicaid expenses are brutal, and the real problem:

      Major Changes to Medicaid. CBO estimates that several major provisions affecting Medicaid would decrease direct spending by $880 billion over the 2017-2026 period. That reduction would stem primarily from lower enrollment throughout the period, culminating in 14 million fewer Medicaid enrollees by 2026, a reduction of about 17 percent relative to the number under current law. Some of that decline would be among people who are currently eligible for Medicaid benefits, and some would be among people who CBO projects would be made eligible as a result of state actions in the future under current law (that is, from additional states adopting the optional expansion of eligibility authorized by the ACA). Some decline in spending and enrollment would begin immediately, but most of the changes would begin in 2020, when the legislation would terminate the enhanced federal matching rate for new enrollees under the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid and would place a per capita-based cap on the federal government’s payments to states….

      Just… Yikes. The horrible part is that I can see Democrats “compromising” on this. I may have missed the talking points, but I don’t see any liberal yammering about “Gutting Medicaid,” except from the perspective that Trump voters might be hurt (and how stupid they are (so, ya know, life unworthy of life)).

  23. Marina Bart

    These people are the stupidest people on the face of the earth.

    I’m only starting to read Water Cooler now, but I felt compelled to share how much this sentence made me laugh.

    Making a terrible and enraging truth highly entertaining is a potent balance of rational and emotive persuasion, not that I needed persuading of how stupid the Democratic elite is, or how smart Lambert is. ?

  24. djrichard

    Zerohedge: CBO: 24 Million Would Lose Health Insurance Under GOP Bill By 2026

    I know zerohedge is deprecated on this site, and this topic will be covered more representatively in the linky goodness for tomorrow, but I thought it was interesting to look at what the commentariat on ZH was posting in response on this particular topic. Gives a sense of how much the readership there represents the fly-over states vs simply representing themselves (as in every man for themselves). The sense I get is that it’s more the latter. But there are some that recognize the impact this will have back home on their brethren.

  25. WheresOurTeddy

    “Call me a purist again”

    “There’s a new obnoxious buzzword in the corporate Democratic lexicon, and it’s being employed with increasing regularity by rank-and-file Democratic party loyalists. More and more I run up against vagina hat-wearing keyboard warriors of the McResistance dismissing progressive rebels as “purists,” “purity ponies” and “purity progressives,” the idea being that if you don’t want to vote for Democrats who actively facilitate corporatism, warmongering and ecocide, you are somehow being unrealistic and unreasonable.

    Like every argument these oligarchic meat puppets advance, this new pejorative has its roots not in independent critical thought, but in think tank-generated political talking points being funneled into their obedient minds through the corporate media…”

    Caitlin burns hot. We need more of that.

  26. JimTan

    “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox”

    Think this study misses an important point. How Amazon achieved their size is as important an issue than their size in comparison to other retailers.

    Amazon’s current anticompetitive advantage over other retailers is delivery of its goods by the U.S. Post Office at below market prices. It goes without saying that online purchases offer superior convenience and better selection than brick and mortar stores. That said, Amazon’s delivery cost associated with this convenience is subsidized by U.S.P.S., which means by taxpayers. Every other retailer in the world offering online purchases has a higher delivery cost. Amazon was smart enough to magnify this benefit by collecting $99 annual memberships ( Amazon Prime ) to guarantee free shipping on most items, an amount they’ve likely estimated is far above their per customer subsidized delivery costs.

    If the U.S. Post Office was to offer the same subsidy to other U.S. retailers ( Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, Sears ) then any of Amazon’s comparative gains would be won through competition. Better yet, it every retailer paid unsubsidized prices for U.S. mail then we’d have a competitive market and taxpayers might not be on the hook for these post office losses down the road.

    1. a different chris

      Amazon still not paying sales tax? I haven’t bought anything from them for so long…

      1. jrs

        no of course they pay sales tax, though it might be based on state policy. At one time long ago they didn’t, it did help such things take off.

  27. KurtisMayfield

    More wage suppression from the Fed

    At present, inflation hasn’t even reached the Fed’s 2 percent target while, according to Reuters, workers wages have gone up by a pathetic 6 cents per hour. Is that why the Fed is slamming on the brakes?

    Is this what the Fed thinks it’s job is, to keep the status quo of zero wage growth no matter what the affect on the people of the country is? If so we really have reached a zero-sum economic status here in the US.

  28. Jen

    From Russia Insider:

    “According to an anonymous official quoted by Reuters (so probably just a random intern at the Reuters mail room)…”

    Really, Lambert, I don’t understand why you say they aren’t reliable.

    1. Yves Smith

      Relying on single anonymous sources is way below any reputable standard of journalism. I can tell you that any time I deal with single sources, what they have told me is at best sufficiently incomplete as to be misleading (the big exception is if they provide documents to substantiate what they are saying). You should be a savvy enough reader of the press to be skeptical of anonymous sources, and in particular lone anonymous sources.

      1. Jen

        My arid sense of humor doesn’t always come across well in pixels. Given all the anonymously sourced garbage we read these days, my sarcastic point was: why wouldn’t you consider them reliable?

    2. MoiAussie

      I think Lambert was commenting on the reliability of Russia Insider, which is definitely questionable.
      But it is Reuters, that reliable mouthpiece, which is quoting (multiple) anonymous insiders in the original piece.

  29. ewmayer

    “Numbers are this really simple invention.” — Not if they’re complex! :)

    To quote a pair of world-renowned mathematicians who always tried to keep it real:

    “I hate numbers. There’s like, too many of them, or something.”
    — Beavis and Butt-Head

  30. Elizabeth Burton

    Joseph Goebbels, courtesy phone…

    I’d suggest this is a superb application of the Goering Rule as well: “…the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” —Hermann Goering

    1. Marina Bart

      It’s easier to achieve this when prior forces have destabilized and immiserated the population…

  31. Stephen Gardner

    Trump’s problem re surveillance is that he insists on using the term “wire tap”. That’s not the way the big boys do it anymore. It’s all stored away in Utah for our NSA to search at their leisure. Gobbled up by the phone companies and shipped to Utah. When the press says there was no “wiretap” they are technically correct. It’s not the Baltimore PD in The Wire.

  32. djrichard

    More and more I run up against … warriors of the McResistance dismissing progressive rebels as “purists,” “purity ponies” and “purity progressives” …

    I try to stay away from the commenting section on the WaPo (it’s become such a ghetto), and it didn’t take long before I got the following comment

    I am sure your heart is warmed by your ideological purity and sense of superiority.

    My riposte

    I understand if we stop being purists that the dem party will actually win, lol. If only it was so easy. Keep at it, I’m sure there’s a way where you don’t have to win hearts and minds.

  33. Cynthiarose

    On the question of Where’d the anti-frackers go?

    Some went to Pennsylvania

    And some went to LA, home of the largest drilled urban oilfield in the country

    Both are tough slogs, with some wins, but not the decisive victory of New York. Them “fighting Dems” have yet to put on their comfy walking shoes and join the community, in any significant way.

  34. Oregoncharles

    ” “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” [Yale Law Journal]”
    Yet another reason antitrust law is a designed-in failure. The underlying problem is that it depends on bureaucratic judgment, so it’s an invitation to corruption as well as to political manipulation.

    Much better: a sharply graduated tax (ideally, hyperbolic) with the rate based on total gross income. Levying the tax only on net income might be aproblem in the case of Amazon, since they admit to very little the last I heard. A back-up tax on gross income for that case would help.

    Taxes are generally administered much more consistently than, say, anti-trust laws, though the recent fashion for cutting enforcement budgets might defeat that. In general, to be effective, this income tax would have to be actually enforced. But I think it’s a more rational approach to the purpose than the present one.

  35. Lupemax

    Sadly the win against bigAg in Oklahoma will probably be overturned by the legislature just as the South Dakota ballot initiative against bribery/corruption was quickly squelched by their legislature. Charles and David Koch contributed mightily to defeat the ballot measure, which passed with 52% of the vote. http://www.salon.com/2017/01/25/south-dakota-republicans-state-of-emergency-is-a-brazen-political-coup-against-anti-corruption-law/

    “Now GOP lawmakers want a full repeal of the voter-approved law, and Republican leaders said a bill that would repeal the sweeping government ethics overhaul approved by voters in November could be on the governor’s desk by the end of the week. The House and Senate State Affairs committees approved the repeal on a 10-3 vote Monday. The committee’s two Democrats and a lone Republicans voted against the measure.

    The committee took the unusual step of implementing emergency rules, which would overturn the measure immediately and block a possible referendum that would allow voters to overturn the legislature’s actions. Normally in South Dakota, if the legislature repeals a citizen-backed initiative, the voters can propose a referendum to reverse the repeal. But if it’s eliminated under a so-called state of emergency, citizens can’t reverse that repeal. To adopt those emergency rules, the legislature needs a two-thirds majority, which Republicans provided. Lawmakers are also debating a bill that would double the required signatures to get an initiative on the ballot in South Dakota.”

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